HP Webcam HD 5210 – PCMag Approved

hd5210.JPGA couple weeks back, I had a chance to start kicking the virtual tires on the HP Webcam HD 5210. I wound up holding off on my testing because I was waiting for the Skype 5.6 update that allows you to stream HD-caliber 720p video. But something happened along the way: PC Magazine (a.k.a. PCMag.com) gave a pretty positive review to the li’l Webcam. Four out of five, to be precise. If you got the time, head on over and read Jamie Lendino’s full review of the 5210.

 

The story could be done there, but I wanted to call out a couple points that Jamie made in his story and even try to address some of the concerns that he had in his review. So, let’s start with the nice stuff….and work into some of the things that he encountered in his tests.

 

 “Attractively designed, the HD 5210….sat nicely on a laptop lid, as well as on an LCD monitor; you can also sit it on a desktop surface. The mount has a slight tilt adjustment in addition to swiveling to the left and right, so you can angle it upward if necessary.”


The flexible stand has been around on previous Webcam designs – and what’s nice here is that it allows the thing to camp on most surfaces and it’s easy to adjust that base to just about any angle you need. Me? I dug that I could coil the sucker up like a snake to get it perched on my desktop. (Also, slight correction: The front is a metal plate, not plastic.)

 

“…the HD 5210 excelled in testing. Recorded videos looked good, if a little low on contrast, at the default 720p (1,280-by-720-pixel) resolution….Clicking the Reduce Noise button brought up the lights slightly, and cleaned up a little bit of the grain in a darker room, at the expense of a slightly overexposed look.”


My test space is all over the place with bright lights that can blast out many a-Webcams’ white balance and then I can drop the lights down low to test out gear in my computer troll cave. In both circumstances, I found that the HD 5210 was able to roll with the punches for the most part – as Jamie says – when recording at 720p. I was getting between 26-to-28 frames per second on my tests, which is good for my needs.

 

Like Jamie notes in his full review, if you kick up the recording quality to 1080p your machine can slow down a little bit during recording. But your mileage on that will vary depending on the sort of machine you’re working with. I tested the HD 5210 on a fairly modest machine – a Slimline s5z with 6GB RAM, an AMD Phenom II X4 840T CPU and a Radeon HD 5450 graphics chip. (For perspective, a similar – but more powerful - PC sells for around $750.) I didn’t run into the kind of slowdown like Jamie reported. But that’s just me.


“Installing the bundled HP software was easy, but it took about 15 minutes and required a reboot, upon which I discovered an "HP Button Manager" icon in the toolbar. This needs to stay loaded in order for the webcam hardware buttons to work.”


While your installation times can vary, it didn’t take me quite that long to make it through the installation process. In my previous blog, I think I timed it out as about nine minutes, tops (Then again, I don’t count how long it takes for a PC to reboot as part of the install process). If you’re like me, you’ll probably perch the Webcam somewhere and not futz with it too much. So if you’re concerned about the button manager hogging up system resources, disable the button manager. To do that, in the start menu, type, “msconfig” and run the shortcut that comes up. In there, select the “Startup” tab and uncheck the box next to “HP Button Manager.”

 

Hey, don’t get me wrong, my mom and sis LUV those quick-launch buttons. But more *ahem* advanced users don’t mind double-clicking a shortcut or what-have-you.

 

“The Webcam Control Center is well conceived.…. Dig a little deeper, and the UI begins to get a little redundant and confusing, mainly because HP assembled a hodgepodge of programs under a single umbrella.”


There is a fairly full suite that comes with the camera, but I didn’t find it overwhelming to try and use. (Hit the “Features” button and it quickly breaks down the most-used options in each of the three apps that come with the camera). For what it’s worth, I like the variety of features available – ask my niece.

 

Since I’ve gotten the family hooked on Skyping to keep in touch, my niece refuses to talk to me on the phone. In fact, she’ll just say, “let’s play on the computer.” Why? (No, I haven’t introduced to games just yet.) It’s because of the extra software that slaps a digital 10-gallon hat on my head or give me some goofy facial makeovers while I’m chatting with her. I might as well be a cartoon character for her.

 

 I’ll grant Jamie one thing: Maybe some people won’t take advantage of all the nifty bits of software that come with the 5210. What would you guys think if there was a way to selectively install which programs or features you want in the future?

 

“The mics themselves sounded great; my recorded voice was clear, crisp, and well balanced. But you could still hear my office's air purifier in the background in recordings, even though it was set to the lowest speed....”

 

Noise isolation is something tricky – and not just in Webcams. Being completely straight up with you, I’ve seen many companies attempt this over the years in a number of devices and the results are always the same: Ambient noise can creep in. If you’re ever recording in any environment that has a ton of surrounding noise, having a mic handy isn’t an altogether bad idea. But again, in most tests I performed, the noise-cancelling circuitry in the HD5210’s stereo array mic made it pretty easy to hear – and be heard.

 

Have more questions? Fire away and I’ll do my best to answer. And, as I said up top, go on and head over to PCMag.com to read the full review.

Labels: hardware
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